Politics & Government
7:40 am
Mon July 16, 2012

GOP Runoff for Superintendent of Public Instruction

Tomorrow is primary day in North Carolina, again. In races in which no candidate received more than 40% of the vote in the May 8th primary, the top 2 vote-getters vie for their party's nomination in a runoff Tuesday. In addition to several U.S. House and General Assembly seats, there are run-offs for 5 statewide offices. Isaac-Davy Aronson has this look at the two candidates for the Republican nomination for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Isaac-Davy Aronson: John Tedesco is known as an architect of Wake County's controversial student assignment plan. He and other Republicans replaced the district's diversity-based system with a school choice plan when they took control of the Wake School Board in 2009. He faces Union County teacher Richard Alexander in tomorrow's runoff.

John Tedesco: Well you know I think Mr. Alexander's a nice man. I appreciate his service in the classroom for the last 20 years. And if we were voting for teacher of the year I think we'd have to consider him as a candidate. We have to understand we're electing someone to manage a system with 800 employees and a budget of $350 million.

Both candidates have their eyes on that Department of Public Instruction budget - how to make it smaller and give more money and control to local districts. Alexander says he used to run a multi-million-dollar business. He wants to slash up to 60% right off the bat, and eventually get rid of the Superintendent's job altogether. He says Tedesco isn't nearly ambitious enough in his budget-cutting.

Richard Alexander: I know that he has spoken about local control, but he's also talked about strengthening DPI. If you're strengthening DPI, you're not giving local control. I want to wean ourselves off federal funding completely.

Though he became a conservative hero for the Wake assignment plan, Tedesco portrays himself as the moderate pragmatist in this race.

John Tedesco: Every single school district in America receives federal funding. But I'm not gonna lie to the people in North Carolina. I'm not gonna tell them I'm gonna do away with the role of the superintendent, when that's a constitutional position elected by the people.

Tedesco says what he will do is fight for federal money with as few strings attached as possible - and he'll reduce the DPI budget with a scalpel, not a hatchet. But Alexander clearly wants a philosophical overhaul of the state's education system.

Richard Alexander: The last 2 governors have said every kid's going to college. Well every kid's not gonna go to college. So we need to go back to a 2-track system in that we have college-bound students and we have technical, vocational students. And I think the best group to look at that is the local districts.

Tomorrow's winner will face Democratic Superintendent June Atkinson in November.